In our first “Beat The Model” Bowl Mania challenge, Dale Hargis (djhargis87) picked 24 of 35 games correctly and with a careful selection of confidence points bested both iterations of The Model and the entire TWER staff. TWER columnist Mac Mirabile sat down with Dale to learn a little about the man and his strategy.
TWER: Tell TWER readers a little bit about yourself.
Hargis: Well, I was born in California, but moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, when I was young. I grew up and went to high school there and will always call it home. From there I went on to college at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado, where I studied mechanical engineering and was a varsity fencer (yes, fencing. not football). I received my bachelor’s and commission from there and was selected to be a pilot.
TWER: So, you graduate and get your wings with your diploma, or what?
Hargis: After graduation, I had my first exposure to the South in Columbus, Mississippi, (right near Starkville — Go Bulldogs!) where I did all of my fixed-wing training and, more importantly, went to my first football game in the South. From there, I was picked up for a slot to move down to Fort Rucker, Alabama, to join a small fraternity of Air Force helicopter pilots with intentions to continue on to fly search-and-rescue missions. That brings us to today, where I’m about halfway through helo training and living in southern Alabama.
TWER: So you’ve lived in California, Nevada, Colorado, Mississippi and Alabama — how’s the South compare to the West in terms of football and football pride?
Hargis: Comparing them wouldn’t even be fair. I mean, it would be hard to argue that any conference is as good at football as the SEC. But the most notable difference is the fans. Out West it varies. Obviously every school has die-hard fans. Air Force fans are great, but they’re basically limited to alumni and students. In the South, football is a lifestyle. If you don’t know football down here, you don’t know anything. The games are loud and rowdy, everyone shows up Friday, sometimes Thursday to start tailgating, the girls wear sun dresses, and (in Starkville) everyone has a cowbell.
TWER: Unless you’re a rabid Mississippi State fan, you have to hate those cowbells. So how’s living in Alabama different from Mississippi?
Hargis: You can’t be an Auburn and an Alabama fan, but you better be one or the other, and every car has a sticker so you know which you’re talking to. It’s almost like rival gangs (all in good fun!), stretching far beyond the rivalry on the football field. That ESPN “Roll Tide” commercial? That’s no satire. That’s real life down here.
TWER: Your TWER entry took down The Model and Model 2.0 entries in a beatdown reminiscent of Auburn vs. South Carolina in the SEC Championship game. Willing to share your strategy?
Hargis: I’d like to say I had some brilliant strategy, but the truth is on any given weekend anything can happen, right? I just focused on a few upsets with teams I apparently knew better than the Vegas oddsmakers and put a lot of points on them. I took a couple gambles and won more than I lost.
TWER: So your time in Vegas may have taught you a thing or two about gambling?
Hargis: You’ll never win without a gamble; you’ll just come out middle of the pack, and who wants to do that? I was either going to win or come in dead last. I wouldn’t hold out for a repeat performance next year!
TWER: You’re a graduate of the Air Force Academy and the Mountain West once again made a big statement in bowl games, going 4-1. You correctly picked all 5 of the Mountain West’s games and went 7-3 in picks of the SEC. You’ve got a pretty good handle on both of these conferences, do you think TCU could have beaten Auburn?
Hargis: Well, as with most of my predictions, I’ll make this one from the gut — Auburn would have crushed TCU. Then again, TCU’s leaving the MWC just as things are looking up doesn’t make them too popular with me.
TWER: You broke away from the pack with your correct 35-point pick of Miami-Ohio over Middle Tennessee in a game where the Miami-Ohio Redhawks were only 3-point favorites. Were you supremely confident of the Redhawks or just hating on Middle Tennessee?
Hargis: Middle Tennessee has been plagued by turnovers all season, and it cost them the bowl game too. That, coupled with the Redhawks’ winning streak leading them to a record-breaking turnaround from last season (1-11 to 10-4), was enough X-factor for me to make up my mind. Maybe I didn’t know they’d win, but it sure felt like they would.
TWER: You finished in the 99.8th percentile of all users and ranked tied for 531st place out of 323,081 entries. Do you think you deserve some sort of ribbon for that finish?
Hargis: That would be a lot of ribbons for all the people that finished ahead of me! Maybe a rookie of the year award. This was my first time ever predicting games or playing fantasy anything. Normally I just watch the MWC and some of the BCS games.
TWER: One last prediction. Auburn has a more difficult schedule next year and is losing 23 seniors and a couple of juniors named Cam Newton and Nick Fairley. What’s Auburn’s record going to be next year at the end of the bowl season (13 games total).
Hargis: With Alabama a home game, and with War Damn Mason’s support*, the Tigers can’t be anything but 14-0 again!
* Editor’s note. TWER columnist Mac Mirabile had a son named Mason born prior to the beginning of Auburn’s undefeated football season.
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